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1888 to 2013 - Celebrating 125 years of cricket at Ashley

Sir William John Crossley

William John Crossley (1844-1911) was one of the two brothers who founded Crossley Brothers in 1867. He became Sir William in 1909 and lived for many years in a house called Glenfield in Dunham Massey.



Crossley Motors Ltd.


Irish born William John Crossley established Crossley Brothers with his elder brother, Frank in a factory at Great Marlborough Street, Manchester in 1867. They had acquired an existing business that made machinery for producing India rubber and flax. Two years later they secured the British and World rights (except Germany) for the Otto-Langen atmospheric gas engine.

Nicholas August Otto perfected the four-stroke version of his engine in 1876 and William Crossley recognised the potential and a production line was set up in Manchester.

William was a founder director of the Manchester Ship Canal, a Liberal Member of Parliament and a freeman of the city of Manchester. In 1909 he was created a baronet. William died in 1911 and was succeeded by his son, Sir Kenneth Irwin Crossley who chaired the company until retiring after the Second World War.

The efforts of motor agents, Charles Jarrott & Willian Malesbury Letts, led to Crossley entering the motorcar business. The London partnership, founded in 1903, was selling de Ditrichs and Oldsmobiles and wanted an "English Mercedes". JS Critchley, previously works manager at Daimler, was commissioned by Crossley to produce a design. This resulted in a 4.6 litre 22 hp model shown at the 1904 Motor Show.

In 1910 Crossley Motors was established to separate the motorcar business from the stationary engines. Around this time they absorbed Jarrott & Letts. William Letts was to be responsible for Crossley's car operations. He was knighted in 1922.

Early production was at the works in the Openshaw district of Manchester that had previously been home to Sir Joseph Whitworth. Car production moved in 1910 to Gorton Lane, which Crossley had acquired in 1905 for diesel engine production.

A plan was in place to manufacture cars in Russia and a factory was set up at Lebedev. Cecil Bianchi who, in the 1920's, was to become Crossley's chief engineer, went to Russia and was lucky to get out in 1917 when the Bolshevik Revolution started.

During the Great War William Letts was responsible for the construction of Crossley's National Aeroplane Factory Number Three at Heaton Chapel, Stockport. After the war they had a large well-equipped factory and planned in December 1919 to assemble Overlands. Production started in 1920 but the state of the British economy and the introduction of the Horsepower Tax in 1921 caused this venture to fail.

Crossley had made commercials since 1912 and in 1928 entered the bus market. By this time car sales were falling.

In 1933 the RE (Rear Engined) was a version of Burney's unsuccessful rear engined car, and was not any more successful.

In September 1931 a new 10 hp model was introduced. This had origins in the 1925 experimental "X-Car" developed by a company that was a product of the company's joint venture with Willys Overland. Willys-Overland-Crossley.

By the time of the 1937 Motor Show, no Crossley cars were being built. Dwindling sales, a large order for buses and trolley buses for Manchester Corporation and a War Office commission for the Indian Government Lorry meant that car production ceased.

After the war bus and trolley bus manufacture continued. In 1946 Crossley moved to Errwood Park, Stockport. In 1948 they were taken over by AEC. Chassis production stopped in 1951 and bus bodies were made until the closure of the Stockport site in 1958.


Crossley, Frank & William

Francis William Crossley was born in Northern Ireland in 1839 of a Protestant Huguenot family, trained as an engineer and came to England in the mid-1860s with his family including his younger brother William John who was born in 1844. In 1867 they acquired an existing business in Great Marlborough Street, Manchester and set up as Crossley Brothers making machinery for producing India rubber and flax. In the late 1870s they secured rights to sell the Otto-Langden gas engine and by 1881 they were employing about 300 men. They later produced their own designs, leading to the establishment of Crossley Motors in 1910. The business was very successful and eventually moved to making buses. Francis married Emily Kerr, who was born in Canada presumably of Scots descent, at St. Margaret’s Church in 1871. Francis, William and sister Emyline were all lodging at 1 Bell Place, 24 Stamford Road, Bowdon in the 1871 census with Martin Stone, the builder of Altrincham Town Hall, all shown as born in Ireland. Francis and Emily set up home on The Firs, Bowdon where they had children Helen, Richard, Alan and Erskine. From 1874 to 1890 the family lived at Fairlie on Catherine Road, off The Firs Bowdon, now used as an annex by the Altrincham Grammar School for Girls. Francis and Emily left Altrincham to live at Star Hall, Ancoats amongst the poor. All of the Crossleys donated much to charity, including helping to build a new wing to St. Anne’s Home, Altrincham, the now demolished Dome Chapel and funding both girls orphanages in Hale (the old Hale UDC building now demolished and the present Conservative Club on Ashley Road). Francis and Emily retired leaving William (who was knighted in 1909) and later William’s son Kenneth (also knighted) to run the business and concentrated on missionary work, including in India. Francis died in 1897 and left over £600,000. Frank was buried in Philips Park Cemetery and the following year Emily came to live in a cottage at 38 Henry Street, now Oak Road, Hale and possibly funded the setting up of the Oak Road Methodist Church. She moved to Frodsham in 1904, died in Switzerland and left £164,000. William was a founder-director of the Manchester Ship Canal and an MP for Manchester. In 1905 the Crossley Sanatorium was opened at Delamere. William’s name is on a 1908 memorial foundation stone of Altrincham Baptist Church, Hale Road. He died in 1911.

The Crossley Baronetcy, of Glenfield in Dunham Massey in the County of Chester, was created in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom on 16 November 1909 for William Crossley. He was a Director of the Manchester Ship Canal, Chairman of Crossley Brothers (Ltd), of Manchester, and Liberal Member of Parliament for Altrincham from 1906 to 1911. The second Baronet served as High Sheriff of Cheshire in 1919. As of 2007 the presumed sixth Baronet has not successfully proven his succession and is not on the Official Roll of the Baronetage